Pursued by Outsiders

Pursued by Outsiders

Perry Duggar |

Wise men and shepherds were outsiders who pursued Jesus at His birth.

Jesus at the Center of Christmas
Pursued by Outsiders • Message 3
Perry Duggar
December 17, 2023


I. Introduction: We continue our series, Christ at the Center of Christmas.

Acts 10:34-35; Ephesians 2:13-16

A. Today’s message is entitled, Pursued by Outsiders, which refers to wise men and shepherds.

1. These two groups were specifically chosen by God—and issued supernatural invitations—to demonstrate that even outsiders are invited to come to the Savior born in Bethlehem.  

2. Theme verse: Ephesians 2:17 (GW)—He came with the Good News of peace for you who were far away and for those who were near. [APP.: Where are you? Far away or near?]

II. Outsiders include… (Matthew 2:1-12; Luke 2:8-20)

A. #1 - Wise men from far away. (Matthew 2:1-6; C/R: Numbers 24:17; Ephesians 2:19-22; Colossians 2:8-9)

1. Matthew 2:1–2 (NLT)—Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.” [Gk. prŏskunĕō, to prostrate oneself, reverence or adore]

2. The Bible doesn’t provide much information about the wise men (GK. magi, NIV, NASB).

3. It’s almost certain that they were not kings, though they likely served kings as advisors who were scholars, scientists and sorcerers. (Gk. translated “magi” and “sorcerer.”)

4. The three gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh don’t prove there were three givers.

5. These wise men provided counsel to kings on matters of religion, science, mathematics and law, but also interpreted dreams and divining wisdom through their occult magic.

6. The magi might have traveled from Arabia, Asia, India or China, but more likely they came from the land of the Medes and Persians (today, Iran) or Babylon (today, Iraq).

7. They practiced medicine and the occult, combined the science of astronomy with the superstition of astrology. (Little distinction between them at time of Jesus’ birth,)

8. It may have been Daniel, serving in the court of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, along with other Jewish captives, who instructed the Babylonians about the one true God and the Messiah who was to come (almost 600 years later) as revealed in prophecy.

9. Numbers 24:17 (NLT)—I see him, but not in the present time. I perceive him, but far in the distant future. A star will rise from Jacob; a scepter will emerge from Israel.

10. Matthew 2:2 doesn’t say the wise men followed the star, it says they saw it, so they came!

11. They may have traveled to Jerusalem because that was the religious and governmental center of Israel, so it was the most obvious place to find a successor to the throne.

12. Once they arrived, they asked where the newborn king could be found (no star).

13. Matthew 2:3–5 (NLT)—King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem. [Perhaps they arrived with a small army since they crossed hostile Roman territory.] He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?” [He didn’t know!]“In Bethlehem in Judea,” [based on prophecy from Michah 5:2; 2 Sam.5:2]

14. These magi were Gentiles, not Jews, who came from far away to see the Messiah-king.

15. They traveled at least 800 miles (perhaps much more), journeying from several months to two years, (Mt.2:16) to worship the king, but may have seen Him only as a human ruler.

16. They were scholars who pursued learning and new experiences, but, they already served a king in a distant land, did they intend to surrender themselves to this new Jewish king?

17. You may be from a distant land—a different faith or no faith at all; you might just be curious about what it is that Christianity teaches and who it worships.

18. In our culture, broad acceptance of faith—many faiths, all faiths, all equal—is in vogue.

19. God is acknowledged, but He may be referred to as “Source” or the god-light within you.

20. Like the magi, go on a journey, expend the effort to discover who God is by learning who He says He is, not who people on Facebook, YouTube or Tik Tok say He is.

21. Gather information, study, ask people who seem to know something, purchase resources (available in bookstore), read the Bible, but most importantly, ask God to reveal Himself.

22. APP.: Any magi among us? Wise men and women pursuing the king born in Bethlehem?

Another group of outsiders were…

B. #2 - Shepherds from nearby. (Luke 2:8-14; C/R: Ephesians 2:17-18; 1 Corinthians 1:26-31)

1. Luke 2:8–12 (NLT)—That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. [likely in the spring when warmer, not December] Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified [never seen an angel or light at night], 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

2. We can understand why an angel appeared to Mary and Joseph, the mother and father of the Savior who would be born in such a startling, unexpected way, but why shepherds?

3. These shepherds were Jewish, but they weren’t righteous or even religious.

4. Their work made them ceremonially unclean, so they weren’t allowed inside a synagogue to hear the Scriptures read or participate in religious ceremonies in the Temple.

5. They were uneducated and uncultured, disdained as the lowest class in their society and treated with contempt.

6. They were despised and mistrusted—thought to be thieves and liars.

7. Because it was assumed they would lie, they weren’t allowed to give testimony in court.

8. Yet, an angel of the Lord announced the impending birth of the Savior to them!

9. They were Jews, so they may have heard of the coming Messiah from their mothers, but they would certainly have doubted whether a Messiah-king would come for them.

10. They were avoided by important people but accepted by a large group of angels!

11. Luke 2:13-14 (NLT)—13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” [Large group for shepherds! Why?]

12. APP.: How many are like these shepherds? We have grown up in a nominally Christian setting, we know something about Jesus, but it doesn’t impact or influence our lives.

13. Perhaps our lifestyle or mistakes we have made have convinced us that we would not be accepted by the Messiah, the Son of God, because our sins are too great.

14. Like these shepherds, we have been staying in fields nearby (been around faith, even attended church) but never thought the invitation to come in, to be accepted, included us.

These outsiders became…

C. #3 - Seekers willing to search. (Matthew 2:7-12; Luke 2:15-20; C/R: Deuteronomy 4:29; Matthew 25:35; 1 Timothy 2:3-6)

1. Luke 2:15 (NLT)—When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” [See any hesitation? Any apprehension?]

2. They must have had doubts about whether they would be received by the parents of someone so important, but the angel said the good news that brings joy is for all people and then the invitation to us was emphasized by a huge army of angels!

3. You can imagine a shepherd speaking up: “The Temple officials will be there by now. You know those rabbis and teachers won’t let us get near this child. We’re unclean!”

4. The fact that the child would be found lying in a manger may have encouraged them that this was a common person from a family of humble means—like them, so they went!

5. Luke 2:16-19 (NLT)—16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, … [People who would have shunned them.]

6. These shepherds had a personal encounter with Jesus which changed them from men who lived with a shameful awareness of their low status to bold proclaimers of Good News!

7. Luke 2:20 (NLT)—The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

8. These men didn’t just see a baby [Gk.brĕphŏs, infant] lying in a manger, they encountered God in human form and they were changed!

9. The wise men arrived in Jerusalem as much as 2 years later (star’s appearance; Mt.2:16).

10. Matthew 2:7–8 (NLT)—Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared. Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!” [Herod actually wanted to murder Him!]

11. Matthew 2:9–10 (NLT)—After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. [not a star] 10 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! [Gk. rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. overwhelmed w. excitement ]

12. Apparently the star disappeared, when it reappeared, they followed it to Jesus.

13. Matthew 2:11 (NLT)—They entered the house [not an animal stall] and saw the child [Gk. small child] with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

14. Notice that they found Jesus, a small child, not an infant, in a house, not a manger in an  animal’s stall, which confirms that their arrival occurred some time after Jesus’ birth.        

15. These prominent men of affluence and influence worshipped a child born into poverty.

16. Only revelation from God could convince these Magi that this child was the Messiah because nothing about this child’s appearance or circumstances indicated He was a king.

17. Matthew 2:12 (NLT)—When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod.

18. These men who served kings, recognizing their authority, now obeyed God, not Herod.

19. God calls outsiders of all kinds from far away and from nearby to come and see His Son, the Messiah-King who came to earth for you!

20. Jesus wants one gift from you—not gold, frankincense or myrrh—He wants your life!

Memory verse: Ephesians 2:18 (NLT)—Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.

Read More